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Offseason Outlook: Philadelphia 76ers

Guaranteed Contracts

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • None

Restricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

  • Henry Sims ($1,181,348) — $1,181,348 qualifying offer3
  • Glenn Robinson III ($1,045,059) — $1,045,059 qualifying offer4

Unrestricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (3rd overall)
  • 2nd Round (35th overall)
  • 2nd Round (37th overall)
  • 2nd Round (47th overall)
  • 2nd Round (58th overall)
  • 2nd Round (60th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $26,703,760
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $2,981,791
  • Options: $0
  • Cap Holds: $25,315,805
  • Total: $55,001,356

The 76ers invigorated their fan base over the last two seasons with the “Together We Build” marketing campaignThe franchise will move on from that phase of its rebuilding plan during the 2015/16 season and will embrace a new slogan: “This Begins Now.” While the change may bring initial enthusiasm, the definition of “This” remains unclear.

Philadelphia’s overall plan from the beginning of GM Sam Hinkie’s tenure was pretty clear: liquidize the existing assets and obtain ones of higher value. The team accomplished the first part with ease. The second part has yet to come into fruition. Hinkie and company had four top-12 draft selections during the past two drafts. They shipped away one of those players, Michael Carter-Williams, because after 111 games with the team, he didn’t appear to be a top talent. Another player selected, Dario Saric, might not come to Philadelphia until the 2016/17 season, although the team reportedly wants to bring the forward stateside immediately. The remaining two players, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, came out of their respective one-and-done college careers playing the same position. They were both drafted with a known injury and each missed his entire first season as a Sixer. Hinkie assured them recently that they’ll have the first shot at leading the franchise, so it appears that both players will remain in town for the foreseeable future.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

It’s fair to wonder how far it can go with Embiid and Noel as the team’s pillars. Noel had a promising 2014/15 campaign and his defensive impact cannot be questioned. He was seventh-best among centers on defense, according to ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus rankings. On the other end, he managed to scrape together some offense, but his numbers are misleading. Noel scored 13.1 points per game after the All-Star break, but he needed 10.4 field goal attempts per game to hit that mark, which is roughly the same amount of shots per game that some perennial chuckers, such as J.R. Smith and Rodney Stuckey, took this season. Philadelphia clearly made a concerted effort to funnel the ball to Noel in hopes of having a Sixer win the Rookie of the Year award for the second consecutive season, and the Sixers seemingly didn’t care about the quality of basketball along the way. The Kentucky product ranked second to last among 73 NBA centers in ESPN’s Offensive Real/Plus Minus, with only Kendrick Perkins behind him. Noel was technically a rookie last season and, as is the case with many non-stars, he will get better as the talent around him improves. Yet, if he is going to reach his ceiling and become a Tyson Chandler/DeAndre Jordan type of player, he needs to be more efficient with his touches.

Embiid has a higher ceiling than Noel, but his foot injury leaves more question marks. The history of big men with these types of ailments doesn’t paint an optimistic long-term picture for the Cameroon native. Yao Ming’s career was shortened because of this type of injury. Bill Walton’s career was hampered by multiple foot injuries, causing the center to only average 36 games played per year during his 13 NBA seasons. Even Kevin Durant, who has nearly the height of a center, but doesn’t carry as much weight, had issues coming back from a foot injury. That specific injury isn’t the exact type as the one that Yao, Walton and Embiid incurred, but it derailed Durant’s season and the forward didn’t look 100% even when he did play. Still, past history doesn’t guarantee future results and if Embiid can stay healthy, he can be the type of franchise player who doesn’t allow his teammates to plan vacations during April and May.

However, even if Embiid remains healthy and becomes a star, playing next to Noel may be an awkward fit for him. The Kentucky product played minutes at the four spot this season and while he’s shown he can defend some power forwards, he is better suited to play the center position. Philadelphia has the next two seasons to evaluate if the pairing is a winning combination, as Noel’s rookie scale contract runs through the 2016/17 season. At that point, the Sixers will have to ask themselves if indeed Noel can be a top player on a winning team.

In the meantime, Philadelphia has the financial flexibility to take some chances. The team can carve out roughly $22MM in cap room if it renounces the rights to Jason Richardson. The franchise can use that cap space to obtain players with unfavorable contracts, like it did this season in the JaVale McGee trade, and gain a few assets for its troubles. It could also attempt to accelerate the rebuilding process and hit the free agent market.

Just because the Sixers have a ticket to the dance doesn’t mean every girl wants to go with them. Cap space alone won’t be enough to attract marque free agents. Philadelphia, while a major market, has one of the worst on-court situations in the league. The team plays in the Eastern Conference, which may be attractive to some stars who are angling to play in the Finals and envision an easier path than in the Western Conference. Yet, other Eastern Conference teams such as New York, Boston, Milwaukee and even Orlando have better on-court situations than Philly and could offer the same financial enticements to free agents.

One player whom the team could feasibly go after this summer is Khris Middleton, although that’s just my speculation. The Bucks will reportedly match any offer that the 23-year-old signs, but if Philly floats a Chandler Parsons-type offer or a max contract by him, Milwaukee might balk at adding that kind of deal, especially with its pursuit of an established big man that will likely require significant cap space. In addition to a potential contract for a big man, the Bucks will have to worry about extensions for MCW and Giannis Antetokounmpo over the next few seasons, while the Sixers only have Noel’s to worry about. Philadelphia will be in a better position to ignore the ramifications of clogging their cap sheet with a expensive deal for Middleton because the rest of its players will be on team-friendly deals or rookie contracts. This is not a foul-proof plan as the Bucks could easily maneuver their way under the cap with a few salary-cutting deals, like they did earlier this week, and match an exorbitant offer.  Looking at the top potential free agents, there are not any players, with the exception of Middleton, whom would be a fit for Philadelphia.

Instead, the focal point of the Sixers’ offseason will be the draft. The team owns the No.3 pick and reportedly has a firm top three of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Russell is “the guy they want,” but the Ohio State product recently canceled his workout with Philly because of an illness. Some have speculated that it was instead because he may have a promise from the Lakers at No. 2. Still, Los Angeles reportedly has zeroed in on selecting Okafor, so the Sixers face a strong likelihood of having Russell available to them at No. 3.

If another guard is going to be selected ahead of Russell in the draft, Emmanuel Mudiay is the likeliest candidate. Mudiay doesn’t have the jump shot and isn’t as polished as Russell, but the 19-year-old is a better athlete. He has the potential to not only be better than Russell, but to be one of the best guards in the NBA. Philadelphia went into this rebuilding phase in order to revamp the team into a legitimate contender. Taking a chance on a player who could become a superstar if he reaches his ceiling is something the Sixers should consider.

The issue with drafting Mudiay is evaluating what kind of player he is today. It’s easy to see how good he was coming out of high school. The point guard was more highly regarded than Russell coming into the season, but then Russell had a successful freshman campaign and sprung himself into the conversation for best guard in the draft class. Mudiay didn’t really get an opportunity to showcase his improvement or his skills versus better competition. He chose to play overseas and spent most of the season out with injury.

Mudiay’s circumstance isn’t that much different than Kyrie Irving‘s heading into the 2011 draft. Irving suffered a severe ligament injury and was shut down for the season after only 11 games at Duke. Irving averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Mudiay averaged 18 points, 5.9 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals during his 12 contests overseas. Only two of Irving’s games came against ranked college basketball teams; The rest were non-conference games against the likes of Colgate, Princeton, Bradley and Cal Poly Pomona. Its hard to argue that the level of competition Irving faced was any better than the professional athletes Mudiay faced abroad. Cleveland pondered selecting Derrick Williams over Irving after Williams’ successful season at Arizona. The team ultimately selected the 2011/12 Rookie of the Year and hasn’t regretted that decision. Mudiay has the potential to make the teams that pass on him second guess the decision for years to come.

Regardless of the player the 76ers select with their first round pick, he will be a much-needed addition to the roster. While their cupboard is certainly full, the current roster lacks talent. Robert Covington, who is on a team-friendly deal that will pay him roughly $3.1MM over the next three seasons, may be the only player other than their past lottery picks who could make a rotation for a playoff team. Covington shot 37.4% from behind the arc and made 167 three-pointers last season, which was the 10th most in the league. If he continues to develop, he could become one of the league’s best bargains and a potentially valuable asset.

Philadelphia has a bevy of young players, including Thomas Robinson, Isaiah Canaan, Jerami Grant and Hollis Thompson, who haven’t yet made any real impact in the league. Perhaps one of them will develop into a serviceable rotation piece, with Grant being the most likely candidate to do so. The team also has five second-round selections in this month’s draft. As it stands, the Sixers will most likely have to rely on players like these to play significant minutes during the 2015/16 season, which doesn’t bode well for Philly’s chances of improving on this year’s 18-win campaign.

Yet, improving in the win column probably isn’t the a main objective for the franchise at this point. Philadelphia could certainly change its approach and aim to become a winning team next season, but more likely, the team will simply look to add talent and stroll out a few more players who are actually in its long-term plans. Whether or not “This,” which is to begin during Hinkie’s third year at the helm, amounts to anything significant remains to be seen. Regardless, the next chapter of one of the NBA’s most interesting case studies starts on June 25th, and the league should certainly take note.

Cap Footnotes

1 — The Sixers waived McGee in March, but he still had guaranteed salary on his contract for 2015/16.
2 — Canaan’s salary is partially guaranteed for $757,820, and it becomes fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through July 15th.
3 — The cap hold for Sims would be $947,276 if the Sixers elect not to tender a qualifying offer.
4 — The cap hold for Robinson would be $845,059 if the Sixers elect not to tender a qualifying offer.
5 — The Sixers traded for the draft rights to Saric, the 2014 No. 12 pick, on the night he was drafted, but they have yet to sign him. Philadelphia can keep his draft rights but remove his cap hold from its books if he and the team produce a written agreement that he won’t sign during the 2015/16 season.
6 — See our glossary entry on cap holds for an explanation of why these players technically remain on the books.

The Basketball Insiders Salary Pages were used in the creation of this post. Chuck Myron also contributed to this post.

Lakers Hire Byron Scott

9:36pm: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has announced the signing of Scott, reports Mike Trudell of Lakers.com (Twitter link). Kupchak said, “After an extensive and thorough search, we’re proud to welcome Byron back to the Lakers family as our next head coach.”

9:26pm: Scott has signed the contract and the press conference to announce the deal will be held Tuesday afternoon at 1pm (CDT), reports Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

MONDAY, 8:28am: There are minor details left to work out, but the main terms of the deal have been agreed upon, Scott tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link).

SATURDAY: 10:20pm: Medina writes that Scott was under the impression he had reached an agreement with Los Angeles, while the Lakers are claiming negotiations could take a couple more days to complete.

10:01pm: The Lakers have maintained to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News that negotiations are still ongoing with Scott (Twitter link). That would contradict the reported agreement, which Medina had confirmed earlier, presumably with a different source (on Twitter).

9:01pm: The Lakers have agreed to terms with Byron Scott, who will become the new head coach in Los Angeles, as first reported by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (on Twitter). The deal is for four-years and $17MM, the fourth year being a team option. The deal has been in the works since yesterday, when some reports indicated the team had offered him the job.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Cleveland CavaliersAs expected, the contract comes in at a lower salary than recent first-year coaching hires Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr, although not dramatically so. The length of the deal would suggest that the Lakers are planning to let Scott guide the team through what will likely be some difficult seasons in the immediate future. Of course, the team has shuffled through two coaches on long-term contracts the past two seasons, so Scott will still need to perform well to truly feel secure. The team is poised to miss the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time in five decades, and barring a major haul in next year’s free agency, isn’t positioned to scale back to the top of the Western Conference next year.

Los Angeles took the most time of any team in filling its coaching vacancy this summer, as the front office committed to a methodical search and an aggressive free agency period. Scott has long considered himself the favorite for the job, and was reported as the Lakers front-runner in late June. Scott’s history with the organization and his relationship with Kobe Bryant were factors that worked in his favor.

Scott will join his fourth NBA team as head coach. The coaching veteran and former Lakers player has compiled a career 416-521 record on the bench. Scott guided the Nets to two Finals appearances early in his coaching career and took New Orleans into the playoffs in consecutive seasons later in his career, but has led losing efforts in every other season. Most recently, Scott’s Cavs teams finished with 24 wins or fewer in each of his three seasons in Cleveland.

Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Latest On Byron Scott

There have been conflicting reports as to whether or not Byron Scott‘s deal to coach the Lakers has been finalized yet. It would appear that an agreement is imminent though. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link) reports that the franchise was impressed by Scott’s reputation as a disciplinarian, and believe his temperament is perfect for a younger team.

More reactions to Scott’s possible hiring:

  • In an article by Sam Amick of USA Today, Scott weighed in on potentially returning to the Lakers franchise as a head coach, saying, “It feels fantastic. This is a dream come true. I always wanted to coach the Lakers, especially when I got to coaching. It’s so unreal. I have to thank (Lakers general manager) Mitch (Kupchak), (Lakers president and governor) Jeanie (Buss) and (executive vice president of player personnel) Jim Buss to give me this opportunity. I really believe that they wanted to do the diligence and to make sure that I was the right guy…I know there were other candidates out there, and I felt like that with each meeting I thought was better and better, and I felt like they had a better understanding of what I was all about. I thought that the last few hires in their minds, they were a little hasty with, and so on this one, they took their time to make sure I was the right guy for this situation. Again, I think it worked out well for both sides.”
  • Carlos Boozer supports the Lakers potential hiring of Scott, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Boozer said, “Well if [Scott] is the coach, that’s terrific. Obviously, he was a great player – you know – a ‘Laker Legend’ of course, but also was a good coach in the NBA for a long time and for a couple different teams. He brings great experience, and obviously knows the NBA very, very well. I think that he could add a lot to our team. I’d be interested to have a conversation with him to find out how he views our team and how he wants to utilize all of us.
  • In Kennedy’s article, Kobe Bryant also weighed in on Scott, saying “We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I’ve always been a fan of his.” Scott an he were teammates during Bryant’s rookie year.
  • Hiring Scott was the only move the Lakers could have made to try and salvage a “disastrous” offseason, writes Mark Heisler of The Orange County Register.

Lakers Interview Byron Scott

THURSDAY, 12:01pm: Scott confirmed that the interview took place, as he said this morning on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Frank Isola and Malik Rose, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Scott spoke with co-owner Jim Buss as well as GM Mitch Kupchak, while rival Lakers coaching candidate Mike Dunleavy interviewed only with Kupchak, Medina points out.

“I had a great time talking with those guys,” Scott said. “Obviously I go way back with Mitch. We were teammates for a while and won a couple of championships together, so it was good. That’s basically all I can tell you. It was good, I had a lot of fun talking to them. Hopefully we’ll be talking again soon and we’ll see what happens.”

WEDNESDAY, 8:14am: The Lakers interviewed Byron Scott for their head coaching position on Tuesday, reports Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Scott is one of the many candidates being considered to replace former coach Mike D’Antoni.

In 13 seasons as a head coach, Scott has a record of 416-521. He last coached the Cavaliers during the 2012/13 season, leading the team to a 24-58 record before being fired.

It’s likely that Jerry Buss would have hired Scott as the Lakers head coach instead of Mike Brown when Phil Jackson retired in 2011, writes Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. But Scott was coaching the Cavs at the time.

Mike Dunleavy, who is also a candidate, interviewed with GM Mitch Kupchak as well, tweets Arash Markazi of ESPN.com.

Cavaliers Fire Byron Scott

The Cavaliers have parted ways with head coach Byron Scott, a source tells Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. The move, which the Cavs confirmed in a press release, comes a day after Scott completed his third season with the team.

Cleveland exercised its 2013/14 option on Scott back in October, at which point the head coach expressed a desire to remain with the Cavs long-term. Scott won't stay with the club for the "five more years" he was hoping for, but he'll still be paid his salary for next season, which is rumored to be $4MM+.

During his three seasons in Cleveland, Scott led the team to a 64-166 record. That's good for a .278 winning percentage, which is the lowest in Cavs' history for anyone that coached at least one full season. According to Lloyd, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert had been unhappy with the team's lack of defensive improvement during Scott's tenure. Gilbert was the "driving force" behind the decision to let Scott go, a source tells Lloyd.

It's not clear yet who might replace Scott in Cleveland, but as Grantland's Zach Lowe notes (via Twitter), a combination of cap space, draft picks, and Kyrie Irving makes the job fairly appealing. ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne suggested yesterday that the Cavs could pursue Phil Jackson this offseason, though Jackson may be more interested in a front-office role rather than a coaching position.

Reactions To Lakers Firing Byron Scott

The biggest question regarding the Lakers’ decision to part ways with head coach Byron Scott isn’t whether or not he deserved to get fired, but rather, why the franchise waited until Sunday night to do so, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes. The decision should have been made at the end of the regular season and not after two of the top names came off the board in Tom Thibodeau (Timberwolves) and Scott Brooks (Wizards), Bontemps opines. Bontemps does note that Thibodeau may not have been a good fit given his desire for personnel control, something the Lakers aren’t currently willing to hand over to a new coach, the scribe adds.

Here’s more regarding the Lakers and Scott:

  • Scott was essentially fired for following the organization’s unofficial directive to focus on the Kobe Bryant farewell tour this season and to secure a top three pick in the draft, Sam Amico of Amico Hoops writes. The scribe also believes it’s surprising that GM Mitch Kupchak has been able to retain his post given the team’s struggles.
  • The Lakers will also look to the college ranks in the search for a new head coach, and while Kentucky’s John Calipari is an intriguing possibility, the organization isn’t 100% sold on him being a good fit, tweets Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Despite the Lakers’ rough 2015/16 campaign, Scott had advocates within the organization who pointed to the difficulties involved with managing Bryant’s final season and the late-season progress the former coach had made in relating to the team’s younger players, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. The USA Today scribe also notes that primary owner Jeanie Buss, reportedly one of those advocates, wasn’t involved in the decision to fire Scott, as she deferred instead to team executive Jim Buss and Kupchak on the matter.
  • One Lakers player told Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News that he wasn’t shocked the team fired the coach and that a “fresh start could be good” (Twitter link).
  • Two available names whom the Lakers should consider when searching for their next head coach are former Houston coach Kevin McHale and Thunder assistant Monty Williams, writes Mark Whicker of The Orange County Register. McHale’s stock has only risen since being fired by the Rockets this season, given their subsequent struggles in his absence, while Williams’ calm and steady demeanor would be a benefit to the franchise’s younger players, Whicker opines.
  • One option for the Lakers is to wait to hire a new coach until July, which would allow big-name free agent player targets to have input, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. The disadvantage to such a strategy would be the risk of missing out on other top candidates, given that the Kings and Knicks are still in the hunt for new head coaches, Kennedy adds.

Lakers Fire Coach Byron Scott

Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports Images

Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports Images

11:18pm: The move is official, the team announced. The Lakers called it a decision not to pick up Scott’s team option for next season. That’s likely a reference to the partial guarantee on next season’s salary that Shelburne alluded to, as the terms are often used interchangeably.

“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” Kupchak said.

10:10pm: The Lakers have fired head coach Byron Scott, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Scott just completed a 17-65 season and had a 38-126 record in two years on the Lakers’ bench. The move was a joint decision by GM Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss and doesn’t signal a shakeup in the front office, tweets Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Primary owner Jeanie Buss reportedly an advocate for Scott behind the scenes, but it appears she’s allowed the basketball department to make its own call.

Warriors assistant Luke Walton may be the favorite to land the L.A. job, tweets Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times, although he points out that by waiting to fire Scott the Lakers missed out on Tom Thibodeau, whom the Wolves hired Wednesday, and Scott Brooks, who is the new coach of the Wizards (Twitter link). Pincus says the Lakers never would have given Thibodeau the organizational control he wanted (Twitter link), but may have had interest in Brooks for his record in developing young players and his ties to Kevin Durant (Twitter link). Along with Walton, Pincus lists David Blatt, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Kevin Ollie as potential replacements (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski also mentions Walton, Van Gundy and Ollie as possibilities, as well as Spurs assistant Ettore Messina. He adds that the Lakers don’t have a definite replacement in mind, and Kupchak will conduct a search in conjunction with team owners.

Earlier this month, Kupchak refused to commit to another year for Scott and said he planned an informal meeting with the coach to discuss his job status. “It does take time to develop young players,” Kupchak said. “We’ll know in two or three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team.” Scott was initially believed to have one more season of guaranteed money on his contract, with a team option for 2017/18, but Ramona Shelburne explains on ESPN Now that the deal became only partially guaranteed for next season because Scott failed to meet performance incentives.

And-Ones: Love, Mudiay, Byron Scott

Here are a few miscellaneous news and notes to pass along out of the Association tonight:

  • It’s a safe bet that Kevin Love will be traded from the Timberwolves before opening night this upcoming season, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
  • The NCAA had cleared top 2015 draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay to play academically, but there were still issues about his status as an amateur when he decided earlier this month to instead play in China, multiple sources tell Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link).
  • Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak insisted in a press conference today that the team saw Byron Scott as its preferred candidate from the beginning of its coaching search, as Mike Trudell of Lakers.com notes via Twitter. Kupchak also said that Scott’s appeal to Lakers fans and experience as a former Lakers player played a role in the team’s decision, tweets Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson has changed agents, dropping Arn Tellem in favor of Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron JamesTNT’s David Aldridge reports amid his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Jackson denied a report before the Cavs hired David Blatt that he was interested in Cleveland’s head coaching job.
  • Hawks swingman Kyle Korver has gone from being the 51st pick in the 2003 draft to arguably becoming one of the league’s most valuable role players, and Grantland’s Zach Lowe takes a comprehensive look at the evolution of the sharpshooter’s game over the years. In another piece, Lowe briefly touches on the effect that Jeff Hornacek had on Korver’s development when Hornaceck was an assistant on the Jazz.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post. 

Lakers, Byron Scott Negotiating Deal

7:44pm: The Lakers have yet to make a formal offer, but Scott is their top candidate and they’ve begun negotiations with the hope of striking a deal with him soon, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Scott is believed to have been vacationing in the Bahamas, Bresnahan also writes, which suggests that he hasn’t been directly involved in the talks.

1:58pm: The Lakers are unlikely to give Scott a deal comparable to the five-year, $25MM packages that Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher received this summer from the Warriors and Knicks, respectively, Shelburne tweets.

1:09pm: The Lakers have offered their long-vacant head coaching position to Byron Scott, and the two sides are negotiating toward a deal, reports Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Scott has seemingly been the front-runner in the team’s search for the past month.

Former coach Mike D’Antoni resigned April 30th, but the Lakers were never in a hurry to replace him, content to find out their position in the draft order and later see how their forays into the free agent market would turn out before making their choice. Scott, who interviewed at least three times for the job, has reportedly been out in front of a pack of other serious candidates that included Lionel Hollins, Mike Dunleavy and Alvin Gentry, all of whom also received interviews. Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis also appeared to a strong contender, though it isn’t clear whether his talks with the team had amounted to a formal interview. The Lakers also gave George Karl more consideration than previously reported, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Scott and the Lakers are still in the early stages of negotiations, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (on Twitter). Still, the offer is the closest the Lakers have come to resolving their coaching situation since D’Antoni stepped down. The 53-year-old Scott, who was out of coaching last season after the Cavs fired him at the end of 2012/13, has been speaking with former teammate Kobe Bryant in coach/player terms of late, as Broussard reported last month. Bryant said recently that he’d welcome Scott, with whom he crossed paths on the 1996/97 Lakers, were the team to hire him. Scott is 416-521 in parts of 13 seasons as an NBA head coach.

Decision On Byron Scott Expected Soon

While it's not clear yet whether or not Byron Scott will stay on as the Cavaliers' head coach next season, don't expect the decision to drag out for too long. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that one high-ranking Cavs official says a decision will be made quickly. When he speaks to reporters tomorrow, GM Chris Grant is expected to announce definitively whether or not Scott will be back next year.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne reported today that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is giving "strong consideration" to parting ways with Scott. Lloyd seems to be hearing similar rumblings, noting in his article that "all indications are privately pointing" to Scott being fired by the Cavs this week.

Cleveland exercised its 2013/14 option on Scott back in October, at which point the head coach expressed a desire to remain with the Cavs long-term, noting that he hoped to coach the team for the next five years. It doesn't appear Scott's stay in Cleveland will last that long, but if the club decides not to bring him back for '13/14, he'll still be owed his salary for next season, which is rumored to be $4MM+.

In his three seasons coaching the Cavaliers, Scott has led the team to a 64-165 record. The former Nets and Hornets coach took over the job at the time LeBron James left for the Heat, so a rebuilding process was anticipated, but as Lloyd points out, Scott's third season with the team has been particularly up-and-down, with "players privately questioning his practice habits and in-game strategies."

Poll: Is Byron Scott The Right Hire For Lakers?

While most teams with coaching vacancies scrambled to make their hire prior to the June draft, the Lakers had no problem taking their time.  At long last, however, their search just might be over.  We’re still waiting on an announcement, but it appears that the Lakers are nearing agreement with Byron Scott on a contract that will make him the 25th coach in franchise history.

In an offseason where coaching neophytes Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher both landed lucrative deals and rising sophomore Jason Kidd jumped ship from the Nets to the Bucks with a hefty pay raise, the Lakers apparently valued experience.  Scott’s career 416-521 record on the bench leaves something to be desired, but it’d be unfair to judge Scott purely on wins and losses considering some of the teams he managed, including the LeBron-less Cavs.  Scott’s first foray into being a head coach was a rousing success, of course, as he guided the Nets to back-to-back Eastern Conference championships in 2001/02 and 2002/03 after a trying 2000/01.  Those Nets were unceremoniously swept in the 2002 Finals by the Lakers but the 2003 team pushed a very talented Spurs squad to a six game series.

The Lakers considered other familiar names for the opening, including Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Alvin Gentry, Mike Dunleavy, and Kurt Rambis, but Scott was likely the pick thanks to his combination of experience and history with the Lakers franchise.  Scott’s eleven career seasons in purple and gold was a definite foot in the door and it probably helped that his final season in Los Angeles was Kobe Bryant‘s first.  As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com noted, Bryant recently gave his blessing for the Lakers to hire Scott.

He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league,” Bryant said. “So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously, I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I’ve always been a fan of his.”

We’re pretty sure we know how Kobe would vote, but we want to know what you think.  Is Scott the right man for the job in Los Angeles?

Byron Scott Takes Lead For Lakers Coaching Job

TUESDAY, 8:08am: Scott and Kobe Bryant have been engaging in conversations on “coach/player terms,” while Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Michael Cooper, a few of Scott’s former Lakers teammates, are pushing the Buss family to hire him, tweets Chris Broussard of ESPN.com.

MONDAY, 12:41pm: Byron Scott has become the front-runner in the race for the Lakers head coaching job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Shelburne also identifies Lionel Hollins, Mike Dunleavy and Alvin Gentry as serious candidates. The inclusion of Gentry on that list is curious, since he’s agreed to leave his job as a Clippers assistant coach for an assistant’s job with the Warriors.

Scott has interviewed three times for the position, according to Shelburne. The Lakers have had at least one interview with Hollins, Dunleavy and Gentry, too, and they’ve also spoken with Kurt Rambis, whom Howard Beck of Bleacher Report listed as one of three favorites for the job about two weeks ago.

The 53-year-old Scott took this past season off from coaching after the Cavs fired him last year. It was the first time since the Nets hired him in 2000 that he hasn’t spent at least part of the season as the head coach of an NBA team. He’s 416-521 overall with the Nets, Pelicans (then Hornets) and Cavs, but he was the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2008 with New Orleans.

The Lakers are the only team without a head coach at this point, and while they appear poised to go through the draft and the start of free agency without one, they like the idea of waiting to see what potential signees are looking for in a coach, Shelburne tweets. Scott and the others still in the mix aren’t necessarily the only ones who’ll get consideration for the job as the Lakers remain open to other candidates, Shelburne adds (Twitter link).

Byron Scott Has Second Interview With Lakers

Byron Scott interviewed with the Lakers for a second time today, tweets Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. Scott is the only candidate to receive a second interview to this point. Scott had expressed enthusiasm and optimism about his chances to land the job following his first discussions with Los Angeles.

Scott’s progression in the interview process isn’t necessarily a sign that he’s significantly closer to landing the job. After the Lakers planned to “make a splash” with a big name hire soon after Mike D’Antoni‘s resignation, they have shown a commitment to taking a patient approach in the hiring process. The Lakers are in no rush to select their next coach, and a report from yesterday suggests they could wait until after they pursue marquee free agents in the offseason to move forward with a hire.

Scott is a well known, popular coaching veteran as evidenced by our reader poll that ranked him as the second best coaching prospect for Los Angeles. Scott guided the Nets to two Finals appearances early in his coaching career and took New Orleans into the playoffs in consecutive seasons later in his career, but still sports a 416-521 overall coaching record thanks to losing seasons every other year. Scott’s Cavs teams never produced more than 24 wins in his most recent three-year stint as an NBA coach.

Cavs Pick Up 2013/14 Option On Byron Scott

The Cavaliers have exercised their 2013/14 option on Byron Scott's contract, reports Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Since replacing Mike Brown in 2010, Scott has led the Cavs to a 40-108 record, though the team appears to be on the upswing, having added top-five picks Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters in the last two drafts. We heard earlier this offseason that the Cavs and Scott had begun talking about a contract extension for the head coach, who expressed a desire to remain in Cleveland long-term.

"We'll take care of that somewhere down the line," Scott said at the time. "People ask, ‘Do you really like Cleveland?' I love it. The perception of Cleveland is it's the ‘Mistake by the Lake.' I hope I'm here in the next five years. I enjoy what's going on."

Scott may not be locked up for the next five years, but the Cavs' decision on his option means he's now under contract for the next two seasons, at least.

Pacific Notes: Griffin, Wilcox, Frye

Clippers power forward Blake Griffin will face extra scrutiny for his role in an off the court incident involving a member of the team’s training staff when he returns from injury and his four-game suspension, Michael Lee of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports writes. Griffin has come under fire before for his physical style of play and there is a strong chance that other players will attempt to test Griffin’s response to aggressive play against him, Lee adds, though coach/executive Doc Rivers doesn’t think it will be an issue for his player. “Listen, he’s tested every night,” Rivers told Lee. “Blake gets hit, chipped more than any player in the league. He’s already been tested.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers turned down four deals that involved shooting guard C.J. Wilcox, Marc J. Spears of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports relays (via Twitter). The 25-year-old has only appeared in eight contests this season, averaging 0.8 points in 2.9 of action per game.
  • Despite their wealth of talent, the Warriors did not receive one trade inquiry prior to today’s deadline, Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times tweets.
  • The Clippers passed on the chance to acquire Channing Frye from the Magic because the team preferred Jeff Green, whom it landed from Memphis in exchange for Lance Stephenson, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com relays (on Twitter).
  • Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak doesn’t want to discuss the future of Byron Scott and indicated that the coach’s status with the organization hasn’t changed, Jovan Buva of ESPN.com notes. “Byron is under contract, and until that changes, or if that changes, I’ll let you know,” Kupchak said. “Once again, I don’t want to get into a Byron discussion right now,” Kupchak continued. “So I’m not going to really answer any more questions about Byron, because I’m concerned that one question will lead to another, and if his status changes, I will let you know.

NBA Hires Malik Rose, David Booth As VPs Of Basketball Ops

The NBA has officially hired executives Malik Rose and David Booth as vice presidents of basketball operations, the league announced today in a press release.

According to the NBA, Rose and Booth – who both begin today and will report to president of league operations Byron Spruell – will be “responsible for interfacing directly with teams and players regarding league programs, rules, new initiatives, and competitive elements.”

Both Rose and Booth previously worked in team front offices. Rose recently left his position as an assistant general manager for the Pistons, while Booth had been the director of player personnel for the Pelicans from 2014-19. Rose and Booth each played professional basketball as well, though Booth spent his playing career in international leagues rather than the NBA.

Rose and Booth were hired after an “extensive” search and interview process, Spruell told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

Western Notes: Holiday, Scott, Harden

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak wouldn’t elaborate on the job status of coach Byron Scott, but merely said that he was under contract for 2016/17, adding that he intends to meet with Scott informally in the coming days, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “I know he’s hoping that he coaches here forever, but a lot of times what we do is we’re really preparing for the next GM or the next coach. That’s tough sometimes,” Kupchak said. “It does take time to develop young players. We’ll know in two or three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team.

While the GM indicated it would take time to see if the players benefited from Scott’s tough approach, Kupchak did note that the coach has the full respect of the roster, Medina adds. “Byron runs a tight ship,” Kupchak said. “Byron makes sure players are where they need to be. They’re ready to practice. Practices are organized. You better be rested if you practice for the Lakers. You better be ready to work if you’re going to practice for the Lakers.

Here’s more from out West:

  • Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said that Jrue Holiday had a “fantastic year” after his minutes restriction was lifted and referred to the point guard and power forward Anthony Davis as the “team’s core,” Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com relays (via Twitter). Holiday appeared in 65 games for New Orleans this season and averaged 16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 28.2 minutes per outing. The coach also noted that the team’s priorities this offseason were to find a 6’7″ player who could act as a facilitator on offense and to improve the team’s defense, Brett Dawson of The Advocate tweets.
  • Nuggets GM Tim Connelly said his team lacks a true star and if the opportunity to land an impact player presents itself, Denver would have to strongly consider making a move, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “At this point, you can’t say we have anyone on the team that is a star. We have guys who are trending that way,” Connelly said. “I think Danilo Gallinari, with more team success, would have been an All-Star this year. I’m so proud of how he bounced back from a major injury. He’s fully back, back better than ever. You’d be hard-pressed to find 10 tougher offensive matchups in the NBA. So I think internal improvement is always the first and most preferable course of action. Certainly we’re always looking for ways to better our roster. If during the course of conversations we can get a guy we deem a superstar, a top 15-20 player, we’ll be aggressive in doing so.”
  • Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said that shooting guard James Harden would have a voice in the team’s free agent decisions this offseason, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The Wolves‘ quick dismissal of interim coach Sam Mitchell demonstrates that the franchise is serious about landing a big-name coach this offseason, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune opines. The scribe notes that the haste with which the decision regarding Mitchell was made was to give the team a head start in the interview process, considering the expected competition this summer for the top available names. Minnesota reportedly has interviews scheduled with Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Thibodeau.

Lakers Assistant Mark Madsen Takes College Job

Assistant Mark Madsen won’t be around to work with the Lakers‘ next coach, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that Madsen has accepted a job as head coach at Utah Valley University.

Madsen, 43, joined the Lakers’ staff in 2014 as an assistant to Byron Scott. After a 10-year NBA career, Madsen became a G League assistant in Utah in 2012 and was named head coach of the Lakers’ affiliate a year later.

There’s no word yet on what might happen to the rest of the Lakers’ staff after head coach Luke Walton agreed to part ways with the team on Friday.

David Fizdale Returns To ESPN As Analyst

Former Knicks coach David Fizdale will return to ESPN as a studio analyst, Ian Begley of SNY.tv reports.

Fizdale was fired by the Knicks after the team got off to a 4-18 start. He also appeared on the network two seasons ago in a similar role. ESPN has often been a haven for coaches in between jobs. Stan Van Gundy and Byron Scott are among the ex-coaches currently employed by the network.

Fizdale had a 21-83 record in New York. Fizdale chose the Knicks over other offers, such as positions in Charlotte, Phoenix, and Atlanta. He was also the head coach in Memphis, where he went 43-39 in 2016/17 before getting fired early the next season after a 7-12 beginning.

The Knicks are 3-5 under interim head coach Mike Miller.

The Beat: Mark Medina On The Lakers

markmedina

Mark Medina

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last time, we spoke with Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun about the Raptors. Click here to see all the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Lakers from Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkG_Medina, and check out his stories right here.

Hoops Rumors: Is the top priority for the Lakers this season to foster the development of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and their other young players, or is it to make a run at a playoff spot after two non-competitive years?

Mark Medina: As of now, the Lakers hope they can do both. On paper, the Lakers’ young core of players (and Kobe) represent the team’s most talented players. Russell, Randle and Clarkson also represent the Lakers’ long-term future. But they are obviously bound to make some rookie mistakes. And it will be interesting to see how much Byron [Scott] prioritizes maximizing his wins versus giving them room to figure things out. My hunch is Byron will have a shorter leash to start on the season if mistakes continue. If it ever becomes clear the Lakers are not playoff-bound, Byron will change his priority on solely developing the team’s young talent.

Hoops Rumors: What’s Kobe Bryant‘s approach to this season been like so far? Does he appear willing to defer to others, or does he seem to want to put the team on his back and carry it the way he has in the past?

Mark Medina: So far, Kobe is doing the right things. But there are two unanswered questions. Can Kobe stay healthy? How much patience will Kobe have with the young players once they start making mistakes and the team starts losing? The Lakers will try to be conservative with Bryant’s minutes and workload, but that will not guarantee anything about his health. Kobe will look to take a less-is-more approach at the beginning. But Kobe will take matters into his own hands if he feels his teammates are taking too long to develop. For better and for worse, Kobe has not shown a lot of patience with that.

Hoops Rumors: The Lakers have a chance to essentially give Roy Hibbert a one-year audition, since he’s on an expiring contract. What does he need to accomplish this season to make a compelling case that he’s the long-term answer at center for the Lakers?

Mark Medina: Defense, defense, defense. That’s mainly all he was brought here for, since the Lakers were awful in that department last season. It will also help that Hibbert has a good attitude after things soured in Indiana. Roy has played well on defense, but he will need a stronger supporting cast around him. As for his attitude, Roy’s done the right things thus far with embracing his role and inviting teammates out for paintball as a bonding activity.

Hoops Rumors: Jordan Clarkson was a revelation last season, and Mitch Kupchak said he envisions Clarkson and Russell as the team’s backcourt for the next decade or more. What is it that has the Lakers so confident that a player who was only the 46th pick in the draft last year can keep it up?

Mark Medina: Jordan proved that he was ready with the opportunity. And he is an endless grinder that embraces self improvement. Clarkson’s dropping draft stock stemmed from his decline of play at the end of his junior season [at Missouri]. But that coincided with Clarkson grieving over his dad possibly dying of cancer. His dad survived the ordeal, and Clarkson quickly proved that his struggles had nothing to do with his skills. Jordan has a long ways to go with his defense and passing. But he’s a natural scorer and never seems to get tired.

Hoops Rumors: The additions of Russell and Lou Williams and the return of Kobe appear to threaten Nick Young‘s playing time. What sort of role do the Lakers plan for him this season?

Mark Medina: It remains to be seen. As of now, Young will be a backup small forward. And he has said/done the right things in listening to Byron and complementing Lou well. But again, the chapter on this will be written based on Young’s play in games that count as well as how he handles negative circumstances that could possibly include lots of losing and Scott’s demands.

Hoops Rumors: Do the Lakers expect No. 27 overall pick Larry Nance Jr. to contribute in a meaningful way this season, or are they taking it slow with him?

Mark Medina: The Lakers love his energy. He will gradually get more and more minutes throughout the season. He brings a lot on defense and hustle plays, which is something that defines how Byron wants his teams to play.

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